Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Squeezed


Careful shoppers often note that spaghetti and elbow macaroni are the least expensive pasta choices at the grocery store. I'm looking for the novel mouth-feel of the oddballs, though: rotini, or shells, or even wagonwheels. Remember them? I want a sauce-grabbing and interesting little pasta morsel in my mouth, and I see I have to pay about twice as much to get it. That's right, almost double the price. Even angel-hair spaghetti is about twice as much as regular spaghetti. If they made little fish-shaped pasta morsels, which I want, I bet they'd charge three times as much.
So let's look at the cost to manufacture this. Commercial (industrial) pasta dies, the pieces made to force the dough through, have evolved. They used to be made of copper, by hand; then bronze. Higher speeds, greater forces. Hundreds of pounds of pressure, forcing that stuff out at greater and greater speeds. The factories got more efficient. Hardened steel dies, finally. There's a whole science of manufacturing the dies for pasta-making plants. So I assumed the weirder pasta pieces had more complex and expensive parts to make them. That might be reasonable.
Except for the weird anomaly of elbow macaroni. This stuff is twice as complicated as spaghetti, at least. It's hollow, for one thing, making the extrusion significantly more complicated. And they have to make sure it has that 90 degree bend in it, the "elbow." Not so simple, really. Surely a simple rotini is less expensive to make.
But note this: elbow macaroni has a lousy "mouth feel" to it. It's not that great. No sauce or cheese really goes far into those thin tubes, it's no better or worse than spaghetti, and like regular spaghetti, inferior even to"thin spaghetti" and noticeably less rewarding to eat than "angel hair,"which although requires smaller dies, is really pretty damned simple even in a cost-conscious factory.
The reason regular spaghetti and elbow macaroni are least expensive is not because they are cheaper to produce, it's because they aren't that great.And I'm pretty sure they COULD sell me rotini at the SAME LOW PRICE, they just WON'T. Those bastards.

2 comments:

Jumper said...

The software has smashed all my words together. Sorry. I will have to fix this. I'm not THAT lazy a writer.

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